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Mental Health Professionals

There are a number of different types of professionals who can diagnose and treat clinical depression. The ones described here may work in different settings and provide a variety of services. Which one may be most appropriate for you will depend on your needs and preferences.

Psychiatrists (M.D.)
A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in mental disorders, is licensed to practice medicine, and has completed a year of internship and three years of specialty training. A board-certified psychiatrist has, in addition, practiced for at least two years and passed the written and oral examinations of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Psychiatrists can evaluate and diagnose all types of mental disorders, carry out biomedical treatments and psychotherapy, and work with psychological problems associated with medical disorders. Child psychiatrists specialize in working with children; geriatric psychiatrists concentrate on helping older people.

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Psychologists (Ph.D., Psy.D., Ed.D.)
Psychologists who conduct psychotherapy and work with individuals, groups or families to resolve problems generally are called clinical psychologists, counseling psychologists, or school psychologists. They work in many settings -- for example, mental health centers, hospitals and clinics, schools, employee assistance programs, and private practice. In most states, a licensed psychologist has completed a doctoral degree from a university program with specialized training and experience requirements and has successfully completed a professional licensure examination.

Psychiatric Nurses
Psychiatric nursing is a specialized area of professional nursing practice that is concerned with prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation of mental heatlh-related problems. These nurses are registered professional nurses who have advanced academic degrees at the master's degree level or above. They conduct individual, family, and group therapy and also work in mental health consultation, education, and administration.

Social Workers
Psychiatric (or clinical) social workers have advanced degrees in social work, have completed a field supervision program, and are licensed/certified. In addition to individual, family, and group counseling and psychotherapy, they are trained in client-centered advocacy. This includes information, referral, direct intervention with governmental and civic agencies, and expansion of community resources.

Mental Health Counselors
A clinical mental health counselor provides professional counseling services that involve psychotherapy, human development, learning theory, and group dynamics to help individuals, couples, and families. The promotion and enhancement of healthy, satisfying lifestyles are the goals of mental health counselors, whether the services are rendered in a mental health center, business, private practice, or other community agency. Clinical mental heatlh counselors have earned at least a master's degree, had supervised experience, and passed a national examination before they can be certified by the National Board for Certified Counselors, Inc. (NBCC).

Case Managers And Outreach Workers
These individuals assist persons with severe mental illness, including some who may be homeless, to obtain the services they need to live in the community. Most persons with severe mental illness need medical care, social services, and assistance from a variety of agencies, including those dealing with houseing, Social Security, vocational rehabilitation, and mental heatlh. Because such services are fragmented in many areas, case managers provide a critical function to monitor a person's needs and assure that appropriate agencies get involved. In many instances they also act as advocates for the client. Case managers can be nurses, social workers, or mental health workers and can be associated with mental heatlh centers, psycholosocial rehabilitation programs, or other agencies. Case management and outreach services are frequently provided by teams that may include people who are recovering from a mental illness who function as peer counselors, case management aides, or outreach workers.

   source: National Institute of Health Publication No. 94-3585



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